Researchers find mixed values for “thoughts and prayers”

❝ An experiment led by Assistant Professor Linda Thunstrom, of the Department of Economics in UW’s College of Business, found that Christians who suffer such adversity value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers, while atheists and agnostics believe they are worse off from such gestures…

❝ The debate over the value of “thoughts and prayers” has come to the forefront as a result of the verbal responses of political and other leaders to mass shootings and natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. Some critics argue that expressing sympathy through thoughts and prayers is a meaningless gesture in response to tragedy — and that, in some cases, it’s an excuse to not take action…

❝ Specifically, the study found that, on average, Christian hurricane victims value prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36, and $7.17 from a priest. In contrast, non-religious people are willing to pay $3.54 for a Christian stranger and $1.66 for a priest to not pray for them.

Likewise, Christians value thoughts from a religious stranger at $3.27, while non-religious people negatively value the same gesture at -$2.02.

You can find details over here. Chuckles pretty much anywhere.

An Amazon Tax Won’t Stop Britain’s Retailers From Self-Destructing

❝ The carnage on the British high street from the likes of House of Fraser and Homebase naturally leads to calls for blood from internet retailing behemoth Amazon.com Inc. Enter Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who last week said he was strongly considering an “Amazon tax” to help retailers. Conservative Scottish lawmaker Ruth Davidson lent her support this week.

It’s a bad idea.

❝ For a start, let’s just get one thing straight. Amazon didn’t kill the British high street.

The U.K. store chains that have collapsed this year did so because they didn’t have the right products at the right prices, invest enough in their businesses, or stay up to date with consumer trends. Associated British Foods’ Primark faces exactly the same pressures as everyone else, and doesn’t even sell via the internet. But it has prospered…

❝ True, the retail landscape is being reshaped by the continued growth of online shopping. And the tax system needs to be adjusted accordingly. There must be some leveling between bricks-and-mortar stores, which are both property- and people-heavy, and online-only merchants, which are less so.

RTFA for suggestions which make economic and fiscal sense. Something often as absent from the British Parliament as they are in the US Congress.

Fake president wasted everyone’s time this weekend in Canada


Click to enlarge

❝ Just when it seemed that the G7 leaders had eked out a joint communique and avoided an open rift, Donald Trump in a stunning Twitter turnaround, retracted his endorsement. It’s probably better that way

❝ Sometimes it is good to rip off the band-aid. And by backing out of an apparently agreed upon joint G7 communique at the last minute via Twitter and on a plane en route to Singapore President Trump has done just that.

In his tweet he accused Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau of making false statements at his press conference and said he had “instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique…If he really does pull out of the agreement it would not be his first withdrawal. In fact, Trump is a master withdrawer. He pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership, and UNESCO, to name just a few…

But it is probably better that way than trying to paper over a fundamental rift that really can’t be papered over…Because President Trump’s appearance here in Quebec made clear one more time how he feels about America’s closest allies and the post-war international order that Washington was instrumental in building: he could not care less. More than that, he is actively trying to disrupt and undermine it.

With or without the encouragement of rightwing scumbags like Bolton, Miller and Navarro, I was confident Trump would back out of anything positive or constructive he pretended to agree to during the day-and-a-half he spent in Charlevoix. Look at Chancellor Merkel in the photo up top. She looks like she trusts Trump as far as she can throw him uphill into a heavy wind.

RTFA for the gruesome – predictable – results.

Protect free speech rights for bots?

❝ Do you have a right to know if you’re talking to a bot? How about the bot? Does it have the right to keep that information from you? Those questions have been stirring in the minds of many since well before Google demoed Duplex, a human-like AI that makes phone calls on a user’s behalf, earlier this month.

Bots — online accounts that appear to be controlled by a human, but are actually powered by AI — are now prevalent all across the internet, specifically on social media sites. While some people think legally forcing these bots to “out” themselves as non-human would be beneficial, others think doing so violates the bot’s right to free speech. Yes, they believe bots have the same First Amendment rights as humans in America.

RTFA. Standard copout piece pretty much avoiding rational science-based discussion of philosophical questions. I expect there are plenty of handy bots slipping through the fog of the Web already advancing petit bourgeois rationales for Bot Freedoms – generated by owners profiting from their bots. Or hoping to.

But, you might want to interfere with morning coffee [or tea] enough to – at a minimum – develop your own opinion on the topic.

The Democratic Party is willing to copout on reproductive rights


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Elaine Thompson

❝ Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said Monday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will not withhold funding from candidates who are anti-abortion rights, a move that is drawing the ire of reproductive justice and abortion activists.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” Luján, the DCCC chairman, said in an interview with The Hill. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Other high-profile Democrats have taken similar stances on abortion. In April, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) campaigned for an anti-choice mayoral candidate in Nebraska and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez met with anti-abortion Democrats in May.

The operative words defining the process are opportunism and sophistry. Neither of which nudges me towards loyalty to the Democratic Party or their candidates.

❝ Candice Russell, a WeTestify abortion storytelling fellow with the National Network of Abortion Funds, said she felt betrayed by Luján’s comments Monday — especially because she said she distinctly remembers the party sending fundraising emails after the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court decision striking down abortion restrictions in Texas.

You don’t get to ask me for money and turn around and spit in my face,” Russell said. “To think that abortion access isn’t inextricably tied to every single thing the Democratic Party says it stands for is foolish.”…

❝ As the the party tries to regain populist ground lost to President Donald Trump, leaders like Luján, Sanders, and Perez have framed abortion and other social issues as separate from economic issues.

“The only way you can say that economic issues are separate from social issues is if you’re presuming the only people affected by economic issues are straight, white, able-bodied men,” Erin Matson, a reproductive rights activist in Virginia, said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “Give me a break.”

I second that emotion. I have to chuckle. Wryly. When Ben Ray Lujan first primaried for the seat he holds I voted for another candidate. I presumed that since he was an heirloom candidate, running for a seat previously held by his family, he couldn’t be trusted further than any other machine candidate.

I later apologized in a letter to him – for, at first, he took positions supporting progressive policies challenging the status quo in that party. Then, he moved on up the ladder to a station of “responsible leadership” – which apparently means progressive policies are the first to be jettisoned when Democrats are confronted by rightwing populist activism.

Ben Ray is safe, of course. It’s likely anyone could get elected here in northern New Mexico – named Lujan. The family has a history of coming down on the side of workingclass families on just about all economic issues. But, the day is past when that is sufficient, when we are challenged at the national level all the way down to local ballots by populist lies and ideology.

Selling out to convenience and opportunism ain’t the way folks win.

cc: Ben Ray Lujan